Undecided on your major? Consider teaching!

Alex Ourth, Courier Staff

Many university students across the nation struggle to determine what major course of study and career path they should pursue.

While completing their first year at the university, these students explore potential fields that might fit with their defined likes, skills and values. During this process, one field that often gets overlooked is the field of teaching. Although teaching was once a respected and popular profession (especially at Western which started as a teacher’s college), more recently there has been far less interest in choosing education among college students. This can likely be attributed to many of the negative attributes that are often associated with the teaching profession (e.g. low annual salaries, little societal respect for the profession, larger class sizes under lower resources, etc.). However, might there also be some key benefits to selecting education as a career? Are some of the current problems getting any better?

When considering a career in education, there are actually quite a few benefits when compared to other professions. One major benefit is the work schedule. Like many other professions, teachers typically work five days during the week from around 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. However, unlike many other professions, teachers rarely have to work on the weekends or be on call for evening or overnight shifts. They also tend to have more holidays scheduled into their contracts than other professions do (Columbus Day, President’s Day, Martin Luther King Day). Teachers also tend to have summers off and longer winter and spring breaks than other professions.

Thus, for those who value their time above other things, this might be a smart career choice. It would provide additional time for pursuing other hobbies or developing other skills. For those wanting to raise a family, it would ensure that you are available at the same time that your kids are (thus making it easier for you to attend all their extracurriculars and family events). For those who love traveling the world, it provides long lengths of time to schedule trips.

Another benefit to teaching is the ability to make a difference in the lives of one’s students. Teachers are literally tasked with helping society’s youth develop the knowledge and skills to be beneficial contributors to society. Although this can be a daunting and difficult challenge, the rewards of doing so are great. Being able to see the success of students you worked with, and knowing that you helped shape them can be a very satisfying feeling. Although our society in general doesn’t show our teachers the respect they deserve, individual students will always remember and respect the teachers who mentored them.

One common reason people have for choosing not to pursue education is the low salary when compared to other professions. Although teacher salaries can vary widely, it is common for beginning teachers to have a salary anywhere from $25-30k annually. Obviously, when you have rent, bills and student loans to pay off, this low salary can seem like an easy deciding factor to choose another profession. However, there is some hope that some of the issues around low salary may be getting better. This past August, Governor Pritzker signed legislation to increase the minimum salaries for teachers to $40,000 by 2023. This law came as a result of the current teacher shortage that is currently plaguing the state of Illinois. Although the obvious direct benefit of this law will be the increase in minimum salaries for current and future teachers in Illinois, another benefit is that the state is starting to understand the importance of the teaching profession to the success of our students and our state. Hopefully, the current troubles the state is facing will continue to help shape a more respectful and supportive environment for our teachers.

So, if you are one of the many students who are unsure of what profession you want to pursue, and you value things like time and making a difference, I would strongly encourage you to consider a career in teaching. In doing so, you just might find that important and fulfilling career you’ve been looking for!